Barcelona off the beaten path: A city guide for the culturally adventurous

Image: pixabay

From the architectural masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí to the sweeping vistas of the Catalan countryside, Barcelona is a city full of sensory delights. 

But there’s far more to this vibrant metropolis than initially meets the eye. For locals and travellers alike, Barcelona is full of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path wonders that go far beyond the typical tourist traps. 

Below, we’ve outlined a few bucket list items for every type of traveller who hopes to live like a local during their stay in this remarkable city.

WHAT TO DO

For couples: Couples who want to experience the “real” Barcelona can find a number of authentic activities that veer from the standard stroll down to la Sagrada Família. To delve into the heart of Catalan culture, a hands-on approach is key.

Image: pixabay

Start with the city’s world-renowned cuisine: At bcnKITCHEN, visitors can sign up for cooking classes (offered in both English and Spanish) to learn the art of local, traditional dishes like coca catalana and crema catalana.

For couples craving a taste of the dramatic, visit Barcelona Improv Group to catch an improv show or even partake in a Sunday drop-in workshop hosted at Teatre de l’Enjòlit

For business travellers: Those staying in Barcelona for business may find inspiration at MADE, a flexible space for artists, designers, entrepreneurs, engineers and more. This creative co-working organisation hosts Open Monday Meetups for interested parties to drop in, explore the space, and mingle with resident entrepreneurs.

For families: Entertainment options in Barcelona go beyond correfoc, a traditional fireworks display — though these shows are highly recommended if you happen to be in town for any kind of Catalan festival. For a unique take on the city’s theatre scene, check out puppetry at Sala Fenix. The shows are primarily in Catalan and Spanish, so it’s an experience best reserved for families who speak a little of the local language.

Barcelona’s expansive beaches are also well worth a visit. For those seeking sandy beaches sans crowds, head to Playa de Llevant, Barcelona’s easternmost beach. Other less-touristic beach options include Platja del Bogatell, Nova Icaria, and Mar Bella.

Image: pixabay

For anyone on a budget: Market strolling is a quintessential Barcelona activity, and there are options to satisfy every budget. Bypass Boqueria to explore some of the local hot spots, like Els Encants Vells, the largest permanent flea market in town, which is accessible via the Glòries metro stop, or Sants Market, where locals swarm Montero, a lunchtime spot that specialises in menjars casolans (“homemade meals”) to go.

WHAT TO SEE

For couples: You may not know that some of the world’s top-rated vineyards are within an hour and a half drive from Barcelona, and nothing says romance quite like vino with a view. Go beyond the city limits for a day of wine tasting, vineyard touring, and soaking in the mountains, monasteries, and stunning nature that surrounds this metropolitan hotspot. Devour Barcelona offers a variety of options to choose from for day or half-day tours of Catalonia.

Or, stick around town, throw it back to the ’90s, and rent skates from Inercia. The company’s website offers a variety of ideas for roller activities around town, as well as information about local tours and classes for all levels.

For business travellers: Meandering through Gràcia, which has become one of Barcelona’s hippest neighbourhoods in recent years, will provide a peek into how the locals live. Along with a smattering of indie shops and architectural landmarks (such as Gaudí’s Casa Vicens and Park Gϋell), this area has a number of outdoor cafes with WiFi,  so you can take a laptop and enjoy  people watching. Onna Cafe has excellent coffee, plentiful electrical outlets, and a variety of delectable menu options.

Image: pixabay

For families: Skip the guided tours of Barcelona’s most heavily trodden tourist traps and opt instead for a comprehensive bike tour of this fabulous city. Steel Donkey Bike Tours offer a unique experience; no two tours are the same, and the group prides itself on discovering hidden hot spots that even locals may not know about. 

For anyone on a budget: Get a feel for the gritty side of Barcelona with a free street art tour that will take you down the rabbit hole of some of the city’s most intriguing alternative culture. For a glimpse into comprehensive Catalan culture, it’s worth paying a visit to the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, which hosts talks, events, as well as  a wide range of ever-evolving exhibitions.

WHERE TO DINE

For couples: A visit to Barcelona simply isn’t complete without a truly memorable meal. Such an experience is all but guaranteed at Etapes. Don’t be fooled by the restaurant’s small size: exquisite dishes like smoked sardines, bluefin tuna loin, and stuffed rabbit porchetta pack explosive Mediterranean flavour.

For a more laid-back meal, take the funicular up to Cafe Mirablau to enjoy delicious bites with a spectacular view.

For business travellers: Barcelona’s numerous art cafes are the perfect blend of boho ambiance and WiFi fuerte. Cosmo Cafe in Carrer Enric Granados is the ideal place to grab a bite and a natural juice while working from the cafe’s cozy sofas. It’s a particularly apt option for health-conscious, eco-conscious travellers. The majority of the menu’s ingredients come from local establishments within a 100 km radius. 

Image: pixabay

For families: Skip the long lines at the restaurants and opt to pack a Catalan-style picnic complete with Iberian ham, local cheeses, and delicious breads and pastries. Picnic locations are plentiful, including any number of the city’s beautiful parks like Park Guinardó or the Tamarita Gardens, where you can enjoy a relaxing afternoon amongst the locals walking their dogs. These parks are a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city.

For anyone on a budget: There’s no better way to experience a city’s culinary creative side than to sample the sensory smorgasbord of street food. At the Palo Alto Market, peruse local crafts and handmade goods alongside some of the city’s famed food trucks, which serve up any number of inventive delicacies.

WHERE TO PARTY

For couples: A stroll down the winding streets of El Born is the perfect way to set a romantic mood before an evening out on the town. Head to El Xampanyet for the local experience and an extensive wine menu — and prepare to get close amongst the crowds. 

For business travellers: For an authentic experience that’s a great option for groups (not to mention a chance to relax from work-related stressors), score tickets to a local football match. Barcelona’s beloved team, FC Barcelona, plays at Camp Nou stadium, the largest stadium in Europe. Tickets may be tricky to come by, but visit the FC Barcelona website or Ticketmaster a few days before a game to search for seats.

Image: pixabay

For families: Parents and kids alike will have a blast at Tibidabo, Spain’s oldest running amusement park. The park has been around for more than a century, and it features more than 25 rides as well as stunning panoramic views.

For anyone on a budget: To take the evening up a notch, head to Espit Chupitos, a bar that specialises in unique shots. Each drink comes complete with a story, so be sure to inquire about the meaning behind the menu. A lively atmosphere, affordable drinks, and up-for-anything bartenders makes this place a hot spot for anyone looking for a night out on the town.

WHERE TO STAY

There’s more to Barcelona than meets the eye. Whether you’re looking to explore the city’s lesser-known wonders or get a taste of true Catalan culture, there’s a TRYP by Wyndham hotel to meet your needs. Located right in the middle of Barcelona’s vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and unique dining scene, TRYP by Wyndham hotels are perfect for any type of traveller.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/08/barcelona-city-guide-2017/

Dont listen to Gwyneth Paltrow: keep your coffee well away from your rectum | Jen Gunter

The colonic irrigation and coffee enemas promoted on Paltrows website Goop are not merely unnecessary, they are potentially dangerous, writes obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Jen Gunter

It seems January is Gwyneth Paltrows go-to month for promoting potentially dangerous things that should not go in or near an orifice. January 2015 brought us vagina steaming, January 2017 was jade eggs, and here we are in the early days of January 2018 and Goop.com is hawking coffee enemas and promoting colonic irrigation.

I suspect that GP and her pals at Goop.com believe people are especially vulnerable to buying quasi-medical items in the New Year as they have just released their latest detox and wellness guide complete with a multitude of products to help get you nowhere.

colon
Ha ha, go deep. Nice play on words for a dangerous yet ineffective therapy. An advertisement on Goop.com.

One offers to help if youre looking to go deep on many levels. Ha ha, go deep. Nice play on words for a dangerous yet ineffective therapy. Goop.com is not selling a coffee machine, it is selling a coffee enema-making machine. That, my friends, is a messed-up way to make money. I know the people at Goop will either ignore the inquiries from reporters or release a statement saying the article is a conversation not a promotion and that they included the advice of a board-certified doctor, Dr Alejandro Junger, but any time you lend someone else your platform their ideas are now your ideas. That is why I never let anyone write guest posts for my blog. And lets be real, if you are selling the hardware to shoot coffee up your ass then you are promoting it as a therapy especially as Goop actually called the $135 coffee enema-making machine Dr Jungers pick. I mean come on.

The interview with Junger is filled with information that is unsupported both by the medical literature and by human anatomy and physiology. There is no data to suggest that a colonic helps with the elimination of the waste that is transiting the colon on its way out. That is what bowel movements do. There are no toxins to be cleansed or irrigated. That is fake medicine. A 2011 review on colonics concluded that doctors should advise patients that colon cleansing has no proven benefits and many adverse effects.

The idea that colonics are used in conjunction with a cleanse is beyond ridiculous. Junger tells us via Goop that a cleanse creates some kind of extra sticky mucus that blocks elimination of what needs to be disposed of (I will admit that hurt my brain more than a little). Dr Junger says this cleanse residue is a mucoid plaque, basically some kind of adherent, cleanse-induced super-glue that needs a colonic for removal. He supports this assertion not with published research, but by telling Goops readers to Google mucoid plaque.

No really. That is what he said. Google it. So I did. This is what came up first:

Mucoid plaque (or mucoid cap or rope) is a pseudoscientific term used by some alternative medicine advocates to describe what is claimed to be a combination of allegedly harmful mucus-like material and food residue that they say coats the gastrointestinal tract of most people.

Apparently, the term mucoid plaque was coined by Richard Anderson, who is a naturopath, not a gastroenterologist, so not a doctor who actually looks inside the colon. I looked mucoid plaques up in PubMed. Guess what? Nothing colon-related. There is not one study or even case-report describing this phenomenon. Apparently only doctors who sell cleanses and colonics can see them. I am fairly confident that if some gastroenterologist (actual colon doctor) found some crazy mucus that looked like drool from the alien queen that she or he would have taken pictures and written about it or discussed it at a conference.

If we needed cleanses to live and thus colonics to manage this alien-like mucous residue created by cleanses, how did we ever evolve? Wouldnt we have died out from these mysterious toxins? Wouldnt our rectums be different? Wouldnt we have invented irrigation tubing before the wheel? So many questions.

There is only a side mention in the Goop post of two of the many complications seen with colonics: colon perforation and damage to gastrointestinal bacteria. And as for coffee enemas? While Dr Kelly Brogan, Paltrows Aids-denialist doctor gal pal who is speaking at In Goop Health later this month, is also a huge fan, there is no data to suggest that coffee offers any benefit via the rectal route but there are plenty of reports of coffee enema-induced rectal burns.

So here are the facts. No one needs a cleanse. Ever. There are no waste products left behind in the colon that need removing just because or after a cleanse. If a cleanse did leave gross, adherent hunks of weird mucus then that would be a sign that the cleanse was damaging the colon. You know what creates excess, weird mucous? Irritation and inflammation.

There are serious risks to colonics such as bowel perforation, damaging the intestinal bacteria, abdominal pain, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and renal failure. There are also reports of serious infections, air embolisms, colitis, and rectal perforation. If you go to a spa and the equipment is not sterilised, infections can be transmitted via the tubing.

Coffee enemas and colonics offer no health benefit. The biology used to support these therapies is unsound and there can be very real complications. Keep the coffee out of your rectum and in your cup. It is only meant to access your colon from the top.

Dr Jen Gunter is an obstetrician, gynaecologist and pain medicine physician. This piece originally ran on Jen Gunters blog

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/09/gwyneth-paltrow-goop-coffee-enema-colonic-irrigation

This boxing gym is giving the underserved kids of Detroit a second chance at a future.

Before he became a boxing coach, Khali Sweeney walked down a troublesome path.

He never learned to read and dropped out of high school when he was in 11th grade. Before he was even 18, he had cards stacked against him. As a result, he turned to a life of crime.

Then one day, a few years later, he made a harrowing realization — most of the kids he knew growing up in Detroit were either in jail or dead.

That was the moment Sweeney decided to take his life in a different direction. He taught himself to read and eventually found a job in construction.

As he got older, he felt compelled to help kids like him have a fighting chance at a better life. So, since he had a passion for boxing, he started coaching neighborhood kids in a local park.

“There’s no recreational facilities around here,” says Sweeney. “There’s nothing for kids in this neighborhood to do.”

Coach Khali teaching a student at his gym. All photos via CW Black Lightning.

In 2007, he founded the Downtown Boxing Gym youth program in Detroit — a nonprofit that empowers underserved youth through education, athletics, and mentorship.

Before Downtown Boxing Gym was established, only 14% of the kids in the neighborhood were graduating from high school.

But with the gym’s inception, all that changed. Thanks to their state-of-the-art facility, dedicated staff of academic professionals, and well-rounded program, 100% of the kids who’ve joined the Downtown Boxing Gym program have graduated from high school.

That’s because one of the gym’s main goals is to offer disadvantaged kids in the neighborhood an opportunity to succeed.

Students in the gym’s youth program.

“The students in our program are going to school every day in a school system that’s completely broken,” explains Jessica Hauser, executive director of the gym.

For example, according to a recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, only 4% of Detroit’s 8th-grade students can read and perform at their grade level, which is the lowest percentage among big cities in America. But shrinking illiteracy in Detroit is just one of the program’s goals.

“We do everything possible to try and counter all the negative things that they’re facing in the school systems,” she says. And that starts with the gym’s motto: books before boxing.

“If you don’t do your homework before you box, you can’t train that day,” says Chrystal Berry, one of the gym’s students.

Thanks to tutoring that’s tailored to each student’s academic needs, kids on average see an improvement of at least one letter grade. That coupled with the daily discipline of boxing helps the kids feel more confident. It’s a strong, foundational support system that reminds them they’re not alone.

A student in the cooking program at the gym.

The gym has already helped change so many kids’ lives. It’s amazing what a safe space, a few teachers, and a boxing ring can do.

The setup is helping break the destructive pattern that’s often fostered by a poor education system. It’s a lifeline for kids who may not have any other healthy outlets in their communities.

For some, like 19-year-old Janelson Figueroa Bocachica, the program can lead to a successful career in boxing. The welterweight just signed a promotional deal with former heavyweight world champion Evander Holyfield. For others, though, boxing is simply a gateway into a world of opportunity they never thought they’d reach.

No matter their passion, as long as they have a desire to do better and reach higher, all kids have a place at the Downtown Boxing Gym.

Learn more about the gym here:

The CW: Black Lightning

He realized everyone he knew growing up was either dead or in jail. So he took action.

For more stories about community heroes, tune in to the series premiere of “Black Lightning” on Jan. 16 at 9/8c only on The CW.

Posted by Upworthy on Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/this-boxing-gym-is-giving-the-underserved-kids-of-detroit-a-second-chance-at-a-future

I Made These Comics To Compare Chinese Culture With Western Culture Through Everyday Life

My name is Siyu. I was born and raised in Beijing, and I’ve spent last 10 years traveling, studying and working abroad in the US, UK, and France. Many people that I met were curious about China, but their impressions of China would end up with words like ‘communist,’ ‘pollution’ and ‘no Facebook.’ While many facts are true, the contemporary, living and multifaceted Chinese life is rarely heard of.

I started “tiny eyes” comics a year ago in the hope of sharing Chinese culture through everyday life, To me, learning about other cultures has always been a fun experience, and I want to pass this feeling to people who are curious about China. In lots of my comics, I compare Chinese culture to western culture. Through comparison, we realise how differently we act in front of the same situation and how we tend to think in a certain way instead of another. In the end, every culture is “weird” in its way, but it’s also the weirdness that makes it interesting.

I post regularly every week, and I share slices of my personal life and experience through Instagram. I hope you enjoy!

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I’ve experienced student dormitories in three countries: In the U.K. I have my own private room with shared public space; In the U.S. I shared my dorm with one roommate; In China, I used to live with 5 girls in the same room. This lack of privacy must be shocking for some of you, but in a country with 1.3 billion population, space is always a problem. While there are…

I’ve experienced student dormitories in three countries: In the U.K. I have my own private room with shared public space; In the U.S. I shared my dorm with one roommate; In China, I used to live with 5 girls in the same room. This lack of privacy must be shocking for some of you, but in a country with 1.3 billion population, space is always a problem. While there are many inconvenience not having enough private space, on the bright side, sharing a room with someone also makes you learn quite a deal about communication, responsibilities and tolerance.

Maybe you have heard that Chinese eat cats. A few horrible people in some obscure places maybe, but the majority, NO!!

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In China, people don’t say anything after someone sneezes.

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Beauty = Thin. “Gaining weight†brings absolute horror for many Chinese girls, even though most of them are already considered thin in other cultures. I’ve seen girls who eat only one apple a day and who drink special tea (which makes you go to toilet 20 times a day) in order to lose weight in a very short time. Movie stars and super models are pushing this aesthetic to its…

Beauty = Thin. “Gaining weight†brings absolute horror for many Chinese girls, even though most of them are already considered thin in other cultures. I’ve seen girls who eat only one apple a day and who drink special tea (which makes you go to toilet 20 times a day) in order to lose weight in a very short time. Movie stars and super models are pushing this aesthetic to its extreme through mass media. When will we be able to simple enjoy being who we are?

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It takes me sometime to get used to making constant eye contact when talking to people. Traditionally, Chinese people tend to avoid direct eye contact when talking to each other, which is a way to show respect and obedience, but in lots of western cultures, especially in English-speaking countries, avoiding eye contact signifies hesitation and dishonesty. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

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It’s hard for Chinese to directly express their love to their families and friends. Instead of saying love, we show care to the health of people we love, ask them if everything goes well, and buy nice things to make their life more comfortable. In history, Confucius enforced social orders by putting people in different relations/obligations, but the expression of personal feelings was never encouraged. Emotions need to be under…

It’s hard for Chinese to directly express their love to their families and friends. Instead of saying love, we show care to the health of people we love, ask them if everything goes well, and buy nice things to make their life more comfortable. In history, Confucius enforced social orders by putting people in different relations/obligations, but the expression of personal feelings was never encouraged. Emotions need to be under control. How do you show people that you care about them?

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We also have spoons, people!

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Can you name a classic Chinese design or a brand? Probably difficult. But have you bought anything “Made in China� Very likely yes. Chinese products are often associated with the word “cheap†and not high quality, sadly. Many aspiring local designers have been trying to create original and valuable products, but problem such as the lack of copyright protection has complicated the process. Still a long way to go.

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Chinese people love their food, they spend lots of time savouring and enjoying their meals. Food is not just “fuel†for the body, but a pleasure, an art, and a way of socialising. If you want to make friends, go eat. If you want to close a business deal, go eat. If you want to pursue a romantic relationship, go eat. Since ancient times, food has been considered priority in…

Chinese people love their food, they spend lots of time savouring and enjoying their meals. Food is not just “fuel†for the body, but a pleasure, an art, and a way of socialising. If you want to make friends, go eat. If you want to close a business deal, go eat. If you want to pursue a romantic relationship, go eat. Since ancient times, food has been considered priority in Chinese culture. The government’s goal was to make sure that each person is taken care of and “has enough to eatâ€. From another angle, it also suggests the realistic character of Chinese: food goes before ideas, and this life is more important than after life.

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eople have less trouble naming Chinese political figures than naming great Chinese artists and scientists, who have also played a great role in shaping Chinese culture. Why? They don’t learn much about it in school; they don’t see them in the media often; and in China we lack initiatives and channels to communicate to the outside word.

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Chinese have trouble taking compliments from other people, because they are raised to be humble, to be self-reflective, and to not stand out from the crowd. So when someone notices you and makes a compliment, you tend to lose the inner balance and get nervous very quickly.

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In China, it’s not rare to see young people choosing to live with their parents after getting out of college. For one thing, it’s more economical than renting a house on your own. And for another, Chinese are very family oriented, so getting support from your family it’s expected in the social norm. In the the United States, however, people value independence so much that it’s embarrassing to have things…

In China, it’s not rare to see young people choosing to live with their parents after getting out of college. For one thing, it’s more economical than renting a house on your own. And for another, Chinese are very family oriented, so getting support from your family it’s expected in the social norm. In the the United States, however, people value independence so much that it’s embarrassing to have things given to you while you have the ability to live on your own.

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There’s a Chinese saying “三æ€è€ŒåŽè¡Œâ€, which means to think twice before taking actions. In history, Chinese value highly reflection and past experience, but acting cautious and staying wise didn’t save the people from the arrival of the early western explorers who sailed into the unknown and took chances at the risk of their lives. China was forced to take actions in its modern history, often times too fast in exchange…

There’s a Chinese saying “三æ€è€ŒåŽè¡Œâ€, which means to think twice before taking actions. In history, Chinese value highly reflection and past experience, but acting cautious and staying wise didn’t save the people from the arrival of the early western explorers who sailed into the unknown and took chances at the risk of their lives. China was forced to take actions in its modern history, often times too fast in exchange for development. While too much reflection on the past slows down the process of change and innovation, too much action without thinking results in waste of resources and irreversible consequences. It’s time for thinkers and doers to meet and learn from each other in this increasingly connected world. It’s happening.

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“Beijing Bikini” is a term used by non-Chinese to describe grownup man who roll up their shirt and reveal their bellies in summer. (warning: what you see is usually bulging tummies instead of six-pack. ) Even though it’s frowned upon by many people, these man are not ashamed of it at all. For them, it’s just a practical way to get cooler when you don’t have air conditioning, so what’s…

“Beijing Bikini” is a term used by non-Chinese to describe grownup man who roll up their shirt and reveal their bellies in summer. (warning: what you see is usually bulging tummies instead of six-pack. ) Even though it’s frowned upon by many people, these man are not ashamed of it at all. For them, it’s just a practical way to get cooler when you don’t have air conditioning, so what’s the big deal?

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In Chinese schools, smoking is strictly prohibited and any student who smoke is considered “badâ€. It’s not just in the sense of “bad for healthâ€, but also considered a symbol for moral degradation. In France, I notice that there are lots of teenagers who smoke, and it’s actually considered “cool†among their friends. There’s even peer pressure to learn how to smoke. Smoking is also a normal way of socializing…

In Chinese schools, smoking is strictly prohibited and any student who smoke is considered “badâ€. It’s not just in the sense of “bad for healthâ€, but also considered a symbol for moral degradation. In France, I notice that there are lots of teenagers who smoke, and it’s actually considered “cool†among their friends. There’s even peer pressure to learn how to smoke. Smoking is also a normal way of socializing so there isn’t any negative moral aspect associated with it.

http://www.boredpanda.com/comics-chinese-western-culture-comparison-tinyeyescomics/

While You Were Offline: Trump’s Nuclear Tweet and Other Hot-Button Issues

Happy New Year, dear readers. It’s comforting—no, wait, what’s opposite of comforting?—to see that, despite still being able to laugh at Oregonians and gas problems and accidental movie reference mix-ups in news reports, 2018 actually got off to a terrifyingly fast start. Even though we took a week off for the holidays, everything you’re about to read has happened in the past seven days. Whatever happened to starting things off nice and slow, huh? Turns out that never happens on the internet. So here, as always, are the craziest things that went down online in the last week.

Hot-Button Issues

What Happened: Everyone who had “the specter of nuclear apocalypse will be heralded by penis envy” in the How the World Ends office pool, congratulations. It might have happened decades later than expected, but it’s on, apparently.

What Really Happened: So. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un delivered a New Year's speech early last week that was filled with mixed messages for the international community. On the one hand, he suggested that North Korea would be open to negotiations with South Korea and participate in the upcoming Olympics. On the other, he also said that it was “not a mere threat, but a reality” that he has a nuclear button in his office, and that “all of the mainland United States is within the range of our nuclear strike.”

OK, so that’s not good. It also, naturally, provoked a response from President Trump.

Yes, that’s a real tweet from the real President of the United States, something that Twitter tried hard to understand and contextualize after it happened…

As the media tried to come to terms with Trump’s tweet, one wonderful fact started to become clear: Despite Trump’s boast, there is no button. (It’s actually a suitcase that contains the launch codes.)

The Takeaway: After it sunk in that Trump threatened nuclear apocalypse over a mine's-bigger-than-yours argument and some non-existent buttons, people moved on to being concerned about his state of mind.

Cover to Covered

What Happened: Early snippets of a new book about the first year of the Trump administration began hitting the internet last week. They did not come and go quietly.

What Really Happened: Perhaps the strangest story last week started with a pre-release news report about Fire and Fury, a then-upcoming book by journalist by Michael Wolff covering the early days of Trump's administration in which former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was quoted saying some quite inflammatory things. In particular, that Bannon called the infamous July 2016 meeting between Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."

That was, of course, the same meeting that has been repeatedly downplayed as entirely innocent by the White House, despite it clearly being anything but. Unsurprisingly, social media was here for the Bannon talk.

Those of you thinking “I bet Donald Trump didn’t take that well,” you’re right. But, surprisingly, he didn’t respond via Twitter. Instead he replied via an official White House statement, which just so happened to sound like an overlong tweet:

Of course, the White House wasn’t always quite as dismissive of Bannon’s contributions, as many pointed out.

But it wasn’t enough to call Bannon mentally unfit. After all, surely there were other ways to try and neutralize him as a potential threat to the Trump regime?

That’s certainly an option. But back to that Michael Wolff book, which had three lengthy excerpts published across Wednesday and Thursday last week, ahead of its planned release, one of which even preemptively tried to head off criticism about Wolff’s sources.

Of course, that didn’t stop criticism of Wolff’s reporting from appearing. There is a step beyond simple criticism, though, as everyone was reminded when Trump’s lawyer hit Wolff's publisher Henry Holt with a cease and desist notice. And how did that go over?

Well, that all worked out perfectly, then.

The Takeaway: Remember: This is just one of the upcoming Trump books in the pipeline…

Air Traffic Control

What Happened: While the President of the United States is undoubtedly powerful, does he really control the safety of all the commercial flights in the entire world? The answer might shock you, if you’re Donald Trump.

What Really Happened: Elsewhere in the world of What Is Donald Trump Tweeting About Now?, the Aviation Safety Network revealed last week that 2017 had been the safest year in aviation history, with zero passenger flight crashes throughout the entire year around the world. It’s undoubtedly great news, and something that Trump couldn’t help but comment upon.

Twitter, have you got this?

Plenty of reports noted that Trump was claiming credit for something he had nothing to do with, and even White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders got in on the gag.

All of this might have you wondering: Hey, who is in charge of aviation safety, anyway? To wit:

The Takeaway: While we’re on the topic of safety in 2017, here’s something the president might want to comment on—even if he likely never will.

Down, The Hatch

What Happened: Utah made a surprisingly early bid to become the Battleground State of 2018.

What Really Happened: It wasn’t just presidential politics that started 2018 fired up and ready to go. On January 2, the number of Republican figures planning to escape Washington increased yet again.

OK, it’s not like this was entirely unrelated to the president, given that Hatch famously called Trump’s reign "the greatest presidency we have seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever" back in November. And, as the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman points out, Hatch’s retirement could be seen as a loss for the president…

…but Trump played down that possibility when responding to the news, nonetheless.

On a practical level, Hatch’s retirement would mean more than simply a new face in the Senate, as was pointed out by some on Twitter…

…but that wasn’t necessarily all it seemed.

OK, maybe he’ll go too. But then who follows?

And who could end up replacing Hatch?

Huh. Wonder what he has to say for himself…

Soon, Hatch had given his support to a potential Romney run, while the speculation about such a thing started to mount amongst the media. Maybe this is just the way 2018 is going to go…

The Takeaway: Looks like there is political life after a failed presidential run, after all. Well, at least for some people.

Logan Paul's Very Bad Vlog

What Happened: Meanwhile last week, a YouTuber discovered that filming in a place known as "suicide forest" is not in good taste. This should probably have been obvious.

What Really Happened: In… well, not exactly lighter news, but certainly not political news, YouTube star Logan Paul dominated the start of the year by posting a video of himself in Aokigahara, the so-called “suicide forest” on the slopes of Mt. Fuji in Japan. The 15-minute video—since deleted—blurred out what appeared to be a corpse, before Paul told the camera “suicide is not a joke,” and that the video—which was “supposed to be a fun vlog”—had “obviously just became very real.”

Too real for many, it turned out.

The backlash led to Paul deleting the video, and posting an apology to fans.

It’s fair to say that people weren’t too impressed.

As the story broke across mainstream media outlets in the following days, Paul offered a second apology.

Others, meanwhile, turned their attention to YouTube and its part in hosting the video, and controlling the subsequent conversation.

And then … he was gone.

The conversation and controversy, of course, continues.

The Takeaway: Remember when we were all so much more innocent?

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/internet-week-152/

Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 14 years, calls for a new approach

In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks.

The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America?

The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called the grief exception, and it seemed to resolve the problem.

Then, as the years and decades passed, doctors on the frontline started to come back with another question. All over the world, they were being encouraged to tell patients that depression is, in fact, just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain it is produced by low serotonin, or a natural lack of some other chemical. Its not caused by your life its caused by your broken brain. Some of the doctors began to ask how this fitted with the grief exception. If you agree that the symptoms of depression are a logical and understandable response to one set of life circumstances losing a loved one might they not be an understandable response to other situations? What about if you lose your job? What if you are stuck in a job that you hate for the next 40 years? What about if you are alone and friendless?

The grief exception seemed to have blasted a hole in the claim that the causes of depression are sealed away in your skull. It suggested that there are causes out here, in the world, and they needed to be investigated and solved there. This was a debate that mainstream psychiatry (with some exceptions) did not want to have. So, they responded in a simple way by whittling away the grief exception. With each new edition of the manual they reduced the period of grief that you were allowed before being labelled mentally ill down to a few months and then, finally, to nothing at all. Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.

Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we dont, she said, consider context. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take peoples actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require an entire system overhaul. She told me that when you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Lets get to the deeper problem.

*****

I was a teenager when I swallowed my first antidepressant. I was standing in the weak English sunshine, outside a pharmacy in a shopping centre in London. The tablet was white and small, and as I swallowed, it felt like a chemical kiss. That morning I had gone to see my doctor and I had told him crouched, embarrassed that pain was leaking out of me uncontrollably, like a bad smell, and I had felt this way for several years. In reply, he told me a story. There is a chemical called serotonin that makes people feel good, he said, and some people are naturally lacking it in their brains. You are clearly one of those people. There are now, thankfully, new drugs that will restore your serotonin level to that of a normal person. Take them, and you will be well. At last, I understood what had been happening to me, and why.

However, a few months into my drugging, something odd happened. The pain started to seep through again. Before long, I felt as bad as I had at the start. I went back to my doctor, and he told me that I was clearly on too low a dose. And so, 20 milligrams became 30 milligrams; the white pill became blue. I felt better for several months. And then the pain came back through once more. My dose kept being jacked up, until I was on 80mg, where it stayed for many years, with only a few short breaks. And still the pain broke back through.

I started to research my book, Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions, because I was puzzled by two mysteries. Why was I still depressed when I was doing everything I had been told to do? I had identified the low serotonin in my brain, and I was boosting my serotonin levels yet I still felt awful. But there was a deeper mystery still. Why were so many other people across the western world feeling like me? Around one in five US adults are taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem. In Britain, antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in a decade, to the point where now one in 11 of us drug ourselves to deal with these feelings. What has been causing depression and its twin, anxiety, to spiral in this way? I began to ask myself: could it really be that in our separate heads, all of us had brain chemistries that were spontaneously malfunctioning at the same time?

To find the answers, I ended up going on a 40,000-mile journey across the world and back. I talked to the leading social scientists investigating these questions, and to people who have been overcoming depression in unexpected ways from an Amish village in Indiana, to a Brazilian city that banned advertising and a laboratory in Baltimore conducting a startling wave of experiments. From these people, I learned the best scientific evidence about what really causes depression and anxiety. They taught me that it is not what we have been told it is up to now. I found there is evidence that seven specific factors in the way we are living today are causing depression and anxiety to rise alongside two real biological factors (such as your genes) that can combine with these forces to make it worse.

Once I learned this, I was able to see that a very different set of solutions to my depression and to our depression had been waiting for me all along.

To understand this different way of thinking, though, I had to first investigate the old story, the one that had given me so much relief at first. Professor Irving Kirsch at Harvard University is the Sherlock Holmes of chemical antidepressants the man who has scrutinised the evidence about giving drugs to depressed and anxious people most closely in the world. In the 1990s, he prescribed chemical antidepressants to his patients with confidence. He knew the published scientific evidence, and it was clear: it showed that 70% of people who took them got significantly better. He began to investigate this further, and put in a freedom of information request to get the data that the drug companies had been privately gathering into these drugs. He was confident that he would find all sorts of other positive effects but then he bumped into something peculiar.

Illustration
Illustration by Michael Driver.

We all know that when you take selfies, you take 30 pictures, throw away the 29 where you look bleary-eyed or double-chinned, and pick out the best one to be your Tinder profile picture. It turned out that the drug companies who fund almost all the research into these drugs were taking this approach to studying chemical antidepressants. They would fund huge numbers of studies, throw away all the ones that suggested the drugs had very limited effects, and then only release the ones that showed success. To give one example: in one trial, the drug was given to 245 patients, but the drug company published the results for only 27 of them. Those 27 patients happened to be the ones the drug seemed to work for. Suddenly, Professor Kirsch realised that the 70% figure couldnt be right.

It turns out that between 65 and 80% of people on antidepressants are depressed again within a year. I had thought that I was freakish for remaining depressed while on these drugs. In fact, Kirsch explained to me in Massachusetts, I was totally typical. These drugs are having a positive effect for some people but they clearly cant be the main solution for the majority of us, because were still depressed even when we take them. At the moment, we offer depressed people a menu with only one option on it. I certainly dont want to take anything off the menu but I realised, as I spent time with him, that we would have to expand the menu.

This led Professor Kirsch to ask a more basic question, one he was surprised to be asking. How do we know depression is even caused by low serotonin at all? When he began to dig, it turned out that the evidence was strikingly shaky. Professor Andrew Scull of Princeton, writing in the Lancet, explained that attributing depression to spontaneously low serotonin is deeply misleading and unscientific. Dr David Healy told me: There was never any basis for it, ever. It was just marketing copy.

I didnt want to hear this. Once you settle into a story about your pain, you are extremely reluctant to challenge it. It was like a leash I had put on my distress to keep it under some control. I feared that if I messed with the story I had lived with for so long, the pain would run wild, like an unchained animal. Yet the scientific evidence was showing me something clear, and I couldnt ignore it.

*****

So, what is really going on? When I interviewed social scientists all over the world from So Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel were good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isnt meeting those psychological needs for many perhaps most people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.

Lets look at one of those causes, and one of the solutions we can begin to see if we understand it differently. There is strong evidence that human beings need to feel their lives are meaningful that they are doing something with purpose that makes a difference. Its a natural psychological need. But between 2011 and 2012, the polling company Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out of how people feel about the thing we spend most of our waking lives doing our paid work. They found that 13% of people say they are engaged in their work they find it meaningful and look forward to it. Some 63% say they are not engaged, which is defined as sleepwalking through their workday. And 24% are actively disengaged: they hate it.

A
Antidepressant prescriptions have doubled over the last decade. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Most of the depressed and anxious people I know, I realised, are in the 87% who dont like their work. I started to dig around to see if there is any evidence that this might be related to depression. It turned out that a breakthrough had been made in answering this question in the 1970s, by an Australian scientist called Michael Marmot. He wanted to investigate what causes stress in the workplace and believed hed found the perfect lab in which to discover the answer: the British civil service, based in Whitehall. This small army of bureaucrats was divided into 19 different layers, from the permanent secretary at the top, down to the typists. What he wanted to know, at first, was: whos more likely to have a stress-related heart attack the big boss at the top, or somebody below him?

Everybody told him: youre wasting your time. Obviously, the boss is going to be more stressed because hes got more responsibility. But when Marmot published his results, he revealed the truth to be the exact opposite. The lower an employee ranked in the hierarchy, the higher their stress levels and likelihood of having a heart attack. Now he wanted to know: why?

And thats when, after two more years studying civil servants, he discovered the biggest factor. It turns out if you have no control over your work, you are far more likely to become stressed and, crucially, depressed. Humans have an innate need to feel that what we are doing, day-to-day, is meaningful. When you are controlled, you cant create meaning out of your work.

Suddenly, the depression of many of my friends, even those in fancy jobs who spend most of their waking hours feeling controlled and unappreciated started to look not like a problem with their brains, but a problem with their environments. There are, I discovered, many causes of depression like this. However, my journey was not simply about finding the reasons why we feel so bad. The core was about finding out how we can feel better how we can find real and lasting antidepressants that work for most of us, beyond only the packs of pills we have been offered as often the sole item on the menu for the depressed and anxious. I kept thinking about what Dr Cacciatore had taught me we have to deal with the deeper problems that are causing all this distress.

I found the beginnings of an answer to the epidemic of meaningless work in Baltimore. Meredith Mitchell used to wake up every morning with her heart racing with anxiety. She dreaded her office job. So she took a bold step one that lots of people thought was crazy. Her husband, Josh, and their friends had worked for years in a bike store, where they were ordered around and constantly felt insecure, Most of them were depressed. One day, they decided to set up their own bike store, but they wanted to run it differently. Instead of having one guy at the top giving orders, they would run it as a democratic co-operative. This meant they would make decisions collectively, they would share out the best and worst jobs and they would all, together, be the boss. It would be like a busy democratic tribe. When I went to their store Baltimore Bicycle Works the staff explained how, in this different environment, their persistent depression and anxiety had largely lifted.

Its not that their individual tasks had changed much. They fixed bikes before; they fix bikes now. But they had dealt with the unmet psychological needs that were making them feel so bad by giving themselves autonomy and control over their work. Josh had seen for himself that depressions are very often, as he put it, rational reactions to the situation, not some kind of biological break. He told me there is no need to run businesses anywhere in the old humiliating, depressing way we could move together, as a culture, to workers controlling their own workplaces.

*****

With each of the nine causes of depression and anxiety I learned about, I kept being taught startling facts and arguments like this that forced me to think differently. Professor John Cacioppo of Chicago University taught me that being acutely lonely is as stressful as being punched in the face by a stranger and massively increases your risk of depression. Dr Vincent Felitti in San Diego showed me that surviving severe childhood trauma makes you 3,100% more likely to attempt suicide as an adult. Professor Michael Chandler in Vancouver explained to me that if a community feels it has no control over the big decisions affecting it, the suicide rate will shoot up.

This new evidence forces us to seek out a very different kind of solution to our despair crisis. One person in particular helped me to unlock how to think about this. In the early days of the 21st century, a South African psychiatrist named Derek Summerfeld went to Cambodia, at a time when antidepressants were first being introduced there. He began to explain the concept to the doctors he met. They listened patiently and then told him they didnt need these new antidepressants, because they already had anti-depressants that work. He assumed they were talking about some kind of herbal remedy.

He asked them to explain, and they told him about a rice farmer they knew whose left leg was blown off by a landmine. He was fitted with a new limb, but he felt constantly anxious about the future, and was filled with despair. The doctors sat with him, and talked through his troubles. They realised that even with his new artificial limb, his old jobworking in the rice paddieswas leaving him constantly stressed and in physical pain, and that was making him want to just stop living. So they had an idea. They believed that if he became a dairy farmer, he could live differently. So they bought him a cow. In the months and years that followed, his life changed. His depressionwhich had been profoundwent away. You see, doctor, they told him, the cow was an antidepressant.

To them, finding an antidepressant didnt mean finding a way to change your brain chemistry. It meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place. We can do the same. Some of these solutions are things we can do as individuals, in our private lives. Some require bigger social shifts, which we can only achieve together, as citizens. But all of them require us to change our understanding of what depression and anxiety really are.

This is radical, but it is not, I discovered, a maverick position. In its official statement for World Health Day in 2017, the United Nations reviewed the best evidence and concluded that the dominant biomedical narrative of depression is based on biased and selective use of research outcomes that must be abandoned. We need to move from focusing on chemical imbalances, they said, to focusing more on power imbalances.

After I learned all this, and what it means for us all, I started to long for the power to go back in time and speak to my teenage self on the day he was told a story about his depression that was going to send him off in the wrong direction for so many years. I wanted to tell him: This pain you are feeling is not a pathology. Its not crazy. It is a signal that your natural psychological needs are not being met. It is a form of grief for yourself, and for the culture you live in going so wrong. I know how much it hurts. I know how deeply it cuts you. But you need to listen to this signal. We all need to listen to the people around us sending out this signal. It is telling you what is going wrong. It is telling you that you need to be connected in so many deep and stirring ways that you arent yet but you can be, one day.

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life.

This is an edited extract from Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari, published by Bloomsbury on 11 January (16.99). To order a copy for 14.44 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99. It will be available in audio at audible.co.uk

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/07/is-everything-you-think-you-know-about-depression-wrong-johann-hari-lost-connections

Oprah Winfrey: one of the world’s best neoliberal capitalist thinkers

Oprah is appealing because her stories hide the role of political, economic and social structures in our lives. They make the American dream seem attainable

In Oprah Winfrey lore, one particular story is repeated over and over. When Oprah was 17, she won the Miss Fire Prevention Contest in Nashville, Tennessee. Until that year every winner had had a mane of red hair, but Oprah would prove to be a game changer.

The contest was the first of many successes for Oprah. She has won numerous Emmys, has been nominated for an Oscar, and appears on lists like Times 100 Most Influential People. In 2013, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She founded the Oprah Book Club, which is often credited with reviving Americans interest in reading. Her generosity and philanthropic spirit are legendary.

Oprah has legions of obsessive, devoted fans who write her letters and follow her into public restrooms. Oprah basks in their love: I know people really, really, really love me, love me. And she loves them right back. Its part of her higher calling. She believes that she was put on this earth to lift people up, to help them live their best life. She encourages people to love themselves, believe in themselves, and follow their dreams.

Oprah is one of a new group of elite storytellers who present practical solutions to societys problems that can be found within the logic of existing profit-driven structures of production and consumption. They promote market-based solutions to the problems of corporate power, technology, gender divides, environmental degradation, alienation and inequality.

Oprahs popularity stems in part from her message of empathy, support, and love in an increasingly stressful, alienating society. Three decades of companies restructuring their operations by eliminating jobs (through attrition, technology, and outsourcing) and dismantling both organized labor and the welfare state have left workers in an extremely precarious situation.

Oprah
Oprah in the early days of the show. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

Today, new working-class jobs are primarily low-wage service jobs, and the perks that once went along with middle-of-the-road white-collar jobs have disappeared. Flexible, project-oriented, contingent work has become the norm, enabling companies to ratchet up their requirements for all workers except those at the very top. Meanwhile, the costs of education, housing, childcare, and health care have skyrocketed, making it yet more difficult for individuals and households to get by, never mind prosper.

In this climate of stress and uncertainty, Oprah tells us the stories of her life to help us understand our feelings, cope with difficulty and improve our lives. She presents her personal journey and metamorphosis from poor little girl in rural Mississippi to billionaire prophet as a model for overcoming adversity and finding a sweet life.

Oprahs biographical tale has been managed, mulled over, and mauled in the public gaze for 30 years. She used her precocious intelligence and wit to channel the pain of abuse and poverty into building an empire. She was on television by the age of 19 and had her own show within a decade.

The 1970s feminist movement opened the door to the domestic, private sphere, and the show walked in a decade later, breaking new ground as a public space to discuss personal troubles affecting Americans, particularly women. Oprah broached topics (divorce, depression, alcoholism, child abuse, adultery, incest) that had never before been discussed with such candor and empathy on television.

The shows evolution over the decades mirrored the evolution of Oprahs own life. In its early years the show followed a recovery model in which guests and viewers were encouraged to overcome their problems through self-esteem building and learning to love themselves.

Barack
US President Barack Obama presents broadcast journalist Oprah Winfrey with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

But as copycat shows and criticisms of trash talk increased in the early 1990s, Oprah changed the shows format. In 1994, Oprah declared that she was done with victimization and negativity: It s time to move on from We are dysfunctional to What are we going to do about it? Oprah credited her decision to her own personal evolution: People must grow and change or they will shrivel up and their souls will shrink.

In an appearance on Larry King Live, Oprah acknowledged that she had become concerned about the message of her show and so had decided to embark on a new mission to lift people up. Themes of spirituality and empowerment displaced themes of personal pathology. For Oprah, the transformation was total: Today I try to do well and be well with everyone I reach or encounter. I make sure to use my life for that which can be of goodwill. Yes, this has brought me great wealth. More important, it has fortified me spiritually and emotionally.

A stream of self-help gurus have spent time on Oprahs stage over the past decade and a half, all with the same message. You have choices in life. External conditions dont determine your life. You do. It s all inside you, in your head, in your wishes and desires. Thoughts are destiny, so thinking positive thoughts will enable positive things to happen.

When bad things happen to us, its because were drawing them toward us with unhealthy thinking and behaviors. Dont complain about what you dont have. Use what youve got. To do less than your best is a sin. Every single one of us has the power for greatness because greatness is determined by serviceto yourself and others. If we listen to that quiet whisper and fine-tune our internal, moral, emotional GPS, we too can learn the secret of success.

Janice Peck, in her work as professor of journalism and communication studies, has studied Oprah for years. She argues that to understand the Oprah phenomenon we must return to the ideas swirling around in the Gilded Age. Peck sees strong parallels in the mind-cure movement of the Gilded Age and Oprahs evolving enterprise in the New Gilded Age, the era of neoliberalism. She argues that Oprahs enterprise reinforces the neoliberal focus on the self: Oprahs enterprise [is] an ensemble of ideological practices that help legitimize a world of growing inequality and shrinking possibilities by promoting and embodying a configuration of self compatible with that world.

Nothing captures this ensemble of ideological practices better than O Magazine, whose aim is to help women see every experience and challenge as an opportunity to grow and discover their best self. To convince women that the real goal is becoming more of who they really are. To embrace their life. O Magazine implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, identifies a range of problems in neoliberal capitalism and suggests ways for readers to adapt themselves to mitigate or overcome these problems.

Does your 60 hour-a-week desk job make your back hurt and leave you emotionally exhausted and stressed? Of course it does. Studies show that death by office job is real: people who sit at a desk all day are more likely to be obese, depressed, or just dead for no discernible reason. But you can dull these effects and improve your wellness with these O-approved strategies: Become more of an out-of-the-box thinker because creative people are healthier. Bring photos, posters, and kitschy figurines to decorate your workspace: Youll feel less emotionally exhausted and reduce burnout. Write down three positive things that happened during your workday every night before leaving the office to reduce stress and physical pain from work.

In December 2013, O devoted a whole issue to anxiety and worry. The issue conquers a lifetime s worth of anxieties and apprehensions, an apt subject given rising levels of anxiety across the age spectrum.

In the issue, bibliotherapists Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin present a list of books for the anxious, prescribing them instead of a trip to the pharmacy. Feeling claustrophobic because youre too poor to move out of your parents house? Read Little House on the Prairie. Feeling stressed because your current project at work is ending and you dont have another lined up? Read The Man Who Planted Trees. Worried that you wont be able to pay the rent because you just lost your job? Read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. Instead of feeling depressed, follow the lead hero Toru Okada, who, while jobless, embarks on a fantastic liberating journey that changes the way he thinks.

Oprah recognizes the pervasiveness of anxiety and alienation in our society. But instead of examining the economic or political basis of these feelings, she advises us to turn our gaze inward and reconfigure ourselves to become more adaptable to the vagaries and stresses of the neoliberal moment.

Oprah is appealing precisely because her stories hide the role of political, economic, and social structures. In doing so, they make the American Dream seem attainable. If we just fix ourselves, we can achieve our goals. For some people, the American dream is attainable, but to understand the chances for everyone, we need to look dispassionately at the factors that shape success.

Oprah
Oprah Winfrey gestures during the taping of Oprahs Surprise Spectacular in Chicago May 17, 2011. Photograph: John Gress/Reuters

The current incarnation of the American Dream narrative holds that if you acquire enough cultural capital (skills and education) and social capital (connections, access to networks), you will be able to translate that capital into both economic capital (cash) and happiness. Cultural capital and social capital are seen as there for the taking (particularly with advances in internet technology), so the only additional necessary ingredients are pluck, passion, and persistence all attributes that allegedly come from inside us.

The American dream is premised on the assumption that if you work hard, economic opportunity will present itself, and financial stability will follow, but the role of cultural and social capital in paving the road to wealth and fulfilment, or blocking it, may be just as important as economic capital. Some people are able to translate their skills, knowledge, and connections into economic opportunity and financial stability, and some are noteither because their skills, knowledge, and connections dont seem to work as well, or they cant acquire them in the first place because theyre too poor.

Today, the centrality of social and cultural capital is obscured (sometimes deliberately), as demonstrated in the implicit and explicit message of Oprah and her ideological colleagues. In their stories, and many others like them, cultural and social capital are easy to acquire. They tell us to get an education. Too poor? Take an online course. Go to Khan Academy. They tell us to meet people, build up our network. Dont have any connected family members? Join LinkedIn.

Its simple. Anyone can become anything. Theres no distinction between the quality and productivity of different peoples social and cultural capital. Were all building our skills. Were all networking.

This is a fiction. If all or most forms of social and cultural capital were equally valuable and accessible, we should see the effects of this in increased upward mobility and wealth created anew by new people in each generation rather than passed down and expanded from one generation to the next. The data do not demonstrate this upward mobility.

The US, in a sample of 13 wealthy countries, ranks highest in inequality and lowest in intergenerational earnings mobility. Wealth isnt earned fresh in each new generation by plucky go-getters. It is passed down, preserved, and expanded through generous tax laws and the assiduous transmission of social and cultural capital.

The way Oprah tells us to get through it all and realize our dreams is always to adapt ourselves to the changing world, not to change the world we live in. We demand little or nothing from the system, from the collective apparatus of powerful people and institutions. We only make demands of ourselves.

We are the perfect, depoliticized, complacent neoliberal subjects.

And yet were not. The popularity of strategies for alleviating alienation rests on our deep, collective desire for meaning and creativity. Literary critic and political theorist Fredric Jameson would say that the Oprah stories, and others like them, are able to manage our desires only because they appeal to deep fantasies about how we want to live our lives. This, after all, is what the American dream narrative is about not necessarily a description of life lived, but a vision of how life should be lived.

When the stories that manage our desires break their promises over and over, the stories themselves become fuel for change and open a space for new, radical stories. These new stories must feature collective demands that provide a critical perspective on the real limits to success in our society and foster a vision of life that does fulfill the desire for self-actualization.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/may/09/oprah-winfrey-neoliberal-capitalist-thinkers

Do you know what it means to be food insecure? These 7 facts may help.

Picture an average family — mom, dad, two kids — on the brink of going hungry right around the holidays.

They’re not homeless. In fact, both parents have jobs, but they’re low-paying jobs, which means living paycheck-to-paycheck is the norm.

Since money is incredibly tight, mom and dad may skip a meal here and there, so their kids can eat, but they manage to get by. That is, until their son winds up in the hospital with appendicitis, which inevitably gouges the meager savings they keep for emergencies.

Now this family has found itself in the terrifying position of not knowing how to pay for the next meal.

This scenario isn’t a hypothetical and doesn’t just exist in the poorer recesses of this country. It’s all around us — in every county in America.  

According to the USDA, 41 million Americans were food insecure in 2016 — that’s 1 in every 8 people. That means you’ve probably interacted with people recently who are currently struggling to afford food for themselves and their families. And it’s not that they’re not trying — food insecurity can simply become the unfortunate reality when something more crucial, like medical care, needs to be paid for. Food is often the first thing on the chopping block.

Think that’s surprising? Then there’s probably a lot more you don’t know.

Here are seven other facts about food insecurity in America and what we’re doing to help stop it.

1. Food insecurity, on average, affects more women and people of color.

Based on statistics collected by The National Commission of Hunger, 12.8% of households run by women experience food insecurity compared to just 7% of male-run households. Meanwhile black households are more than twice as likely to experience hunger compared to white households. No doubt the gender and racial wage gaps have had some effect on these numbers.

2. A driving force behind food insecurity in America seems to be a lack of savings.

We all know we’re supposed to put money aside for emergencies and big budget things, but it can be difficult when people have pressing needs like food, clothes, and shelter. According to a survey conducted by GOBankingRates, 57% of Americans currently have less than $1,000 in their savings. This means all it could take is one unpredicted medical issue to drain that savings and throw a family into a financial strain where their ability to buy food is compromised.

3. One person’s incarceration can leave entire families hungry.

If a family’s sole breadwinner is put in prison, it can become incredibly difficult for them to make ends meet and put food on the table. This doesn’t necessarily change when that person is released. In fact, according to the The National Commission of Hunger‘s survey, 90% of formerly incarcerated individuals’ households experience food insecurity. This is likely due to a number of factors, including how a prison record can affect job prospects.

4. Hunger affects many children’s mental and physical health.

Photo via Free-Photos/Pixabay.

According to the nonprofit Feeding America, 13 million children face hunger in America today. If children under the age of 3 don’t get enough food to eat, they face a whole host of health issues, including risks of anemia and asthma. As they grow up, lack of nutrition can cause social and behavioral issues, affect academic performance, and even increase suicidal thoughts and actions. It’s amazing to think that regular meals can make such a difference.

5. In a country where so many people are food insecure, we waste an unfathomable amount of food every year.

72 billion pounds of perfectly good food goes into landfills and incinerators every year, and that doesn’t include the food we throw away at home. In economic language, that’s roughly $218 billion worth of food waste. Those statistics are even more absurd when you think about it in conjunction with how many people are going to bed hungry tonight. The solution to this terrible problem is staring up at us from giant landfills across the country.  

6. The good news is, a number of organizations are working to end hunger and food insecurity using surplus food.

Photo via Kroger.

The Kroger Family of Companies, one of the country’s leading grocery retailers, donated the equivalent of 330 million meals to people in need in 2016. They take food that’s expiring, but still perfectly edible and nutritious, off their shelves and give it to organizations that help feed the hungry, thereby helping close the food waste gap.

They’ve also given $3 million to Feeding America in honor of its annual hunger awareness campaign, Bringing Hope to the Table.

7. You too can help end hunger and food insecurity by taking some simple steps.

Donations like the ones described above could not be completed without the charitable work of everyday people. Thanks to community efforts, this movement is making real progress. You can aid that progress by advocating to end hunger with organizations like Feeding America and, of course, by volunteering your time at a local food bank.

Food insecurity is an ongoing crisis in our country, but as long as there are people and organizations who strive to change that, American families that are struggling to eat will have a lifeline.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, remember that family from above could be behind you in the checkout line, hoping they have enough money to cover basic supplies. Perhaps it’s time to extend a hand to your neighbors?

Find out more about how The Kroger Family of Companies and Feeding America are helping combat food insecurity:

Kroger

Hunger could happen to any of us.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/do-you-know-what-it-means-to-be-food-insecure-these-7-facts-may-help

Her future was laid out. But a passion for justice took her places she never imagined.

Christine Bischoff grew up in a small southern West Virginia coal town.

“Everyone’s dad was a coal miner, and very few people were educated,” Bischoff says. It was the type of place where opportunities were few and far between.

There were about six career choices in the whole town.

Christine Bischoff. All photos courtesy of XQ.

“You basically picked one, and that’s what you were going to be,” Bischoff says. She went with the one that, to her, sounded the most fun: physical therapy.

Then Bischoff’s life changed permanently because of her teacher, acclaimed poet Maya Angelou.

“To a 21-year-old, everything she said was mind-blowing,” Bischoff says. “Because you’d never thought of the world like that.”

Angelou — whose work extended far beyond poetry into activism, social work, and civil justice — was also an education advocate who spoke on numerous occasions about the power and importance of learning. Bischoff had her as a professor in college.

One day, Angelou gave her class a sage piece of advice: If you don’t like the path you’re on, step off of it.

“So I literally walked out of the class and said, ‘I’m not going to be a physical therapist. I’m going to be a civil rights attorney. I’m going to change the world,” Bischoff said.

Now she works as an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s children’s rights department.

The SPLC’s work for children fights for education reform on multiple fronts. They work toward ending the notorious school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately harms black and Latino students. They ensure equal access to education for children in poverty as well as disabled children, and they also provide the mental health services that low-income and marginalized children often can’t get on their own.

Every day, Bischoff works directly with kids who have been discriminated against or put at a disadvantage by the education system.

“When school districts or the state department of education violates [student’s] rights, we go in and try to remedy the violation so that all students have equal opportunity that they’re entitled to under the law,” Bischoff says. In other words, when the SPLC finds a systemic injustice in the education system, they try to fix it permanently.

For Bischoff, fighting for education is a direct way to make the world a better place.

“If we don’t fix the problems in our education, every piece of our society is going to suffer,” she says. From the global economy to growing industries in science and tech to seemingly insurmountable world problems like climate change, educating every single child is a necessity.

“It’s very easy to lose sight — that we all are in this together,” Bischoff says. “Everybody wins or loses with what happens to education.”

For Bischoff, the path toward a better world began with a simple step off a predetermined path — an opportunity that millions of kids might not get.  

Giving kids equal access to education is giving them access to equal opportunity. It’s giving them the knowledge that if they don’t like where their path is going, they too have the ability to step off and forge a new one.

See Christine Bischoff’s full story here:

XQ Luminaries: Christine Bischoff

Her roots in rural West Virginia inspired her to fight for equal education for all children.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Learn more at XQSuperSchool.org.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/her-future-was-laid-out-but-a-passion-for-justice-took-her-places-she-never-imagined

This Instagram account dedicated to fat girls traveling will give you serious wanderlust.

Annette Richmond is fat. Annette Richmond loves to travel. Yes, these two truths can coexist.

In fact, Richmond built an entire movement on this foundation.

Photo via Annette Richmond, used with permission.

Richmond works remotely and spends most of the year traveling around the globe as a “digital nomad.” When we connected, she was in Thailand, one of her favorite destinations. Richmond will spend the next eight months in Southeast Asia, based out of Bangkok.

“Like many people, I thought I had to work a job I hated and scrimp and save for one or two vacations per year. I’ve learned that I create my own path,” she explains in an email interview. “After I received my first passport stamp, I was hooked!”

Photo via Annette Richmond, used with permission.

In January 2016, Richmond created the Fat Girls Traveling Instagram account.

As a travel blogger, Richmond writes about her adventures and takes stunning photos in exotic locales, hoping to get them cross-posted on popular Instagram travel accounts. But time after time, the only photos making the cut featured thin, white women. So Richmond launched Fat Girls Traveling, where she showcases photos of fat women travelers.

Followers are invited to tag the page to share their photos and stories. Richmond re-shares them to her 13,000 followers across Instagram and Facebook.

🍂Fall Feels 🍁 📸FGT Member @katlynnemo 📍 Berlin, Germany

A post shared by Fat Girls Traveling (@fatgirlstraveling) on

As her community grows, Richmond is branching out to host fat-positive events, including her first summer camp in 2018 for fat women, called Fat Camp, where guests can talk travel, take in the outdoors, play games, and eat great food in a judgment-free zone.

“I feel honored and humbled that what started out as a passion project has inspired so many women to travel the world,” she writes.

📸 @somewhere_under_the_rainbow || 📍 New York City, New York

A post shared by Fat Girls Traveling (@fatgirlstraveling) on

“… I know that the work I’m doing is challenging the status quo and not only opening up the minds and hearts of fat shamers. But opening up the world to so many fat people who are afraid to leave their comfort zones out of fear of being ridiculed.”

📸 @itsmekellieb || Rivera Maya, Mexico

A post shared by Fat Girls Traveling (@fatgirlstraveling) on

And like most women challenging the status quo, Richmond faces trolls on the regular.

Some people simply aren’t ready to see fat women as carefree and joyful. Some try to mask their contempt with disingenuous concern, she says. Richmond and other fat-positive voices call these people concern trolls.

“People that troll the interwebs spouting health and weight loss advice to people they don’t know and truly don’t care about it,” she writes. “People that if they were honest with themselves, would admit that seeing someone that’s fat and happy with themselves and with their bodies makes them uncomfortable.”

📸 @kellyaugustineb @plusjones @iambeauticurve || 📍Playa del Carmen, Mexico

A post shared by Fat Girls Traveling (@fatgirlstraveling) on

Richmond does her best to face the disdain with love and positivity, but she admits the abuse takes a toll.

“There have also been negatives, like cutting toxic people from my life. Calling out friends and family members who use abusive fatphobic language,” she writes. “It’s important that we remember to be kind to each other, because we’re all humans that bleed when cut and cry when feelings are hurt.”

Photo  via Annette Richmond, used with permission.

But nothing will keep Richmond from doing what she loves — and encouraging others to do the same.

For anyone thinking about exploring the world, but concerned about their size, Richmond recommends traveling with vendors that support larger travelers. One airline, Southwest, even offers a second seat for free (you book and pay in advance, then get a refund). Purchasing your own seat belt extender may also ease anxiety around having a potentially embarrassing conversation with a flight attendant.

As for fear of sticking out upon arrival, it’s bound to happen — even to smaller travelers. Keep in mind that different cultures have different standards of beauty, and try to go with the flow.

“In Jamaica my body was embraced. In that culture curves are coveted,” Richmond writes. “It’s a different story in Asia, but for the most part I know that people here aren’t doing things to be cruel, they are intrigued by my size … ”

📸 @avery_hungrycaterpillar || 📍 Beaufort, Sabah

A post shared by Fat Girls Traveling (@fatgirlstraveling) on

So if you’re thinking about traveling more — or just getting started — do what you can to make it a reality.

There’s a great, big world out there and we all deserve the opportunity to experience it.

📸 @mamafierceblog | 📍Gama Laugin, Secret Lagoon, Iceland

A post shared by Fat Girls Traveling (@fatgirlstraveling) on

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/this-instagram-account-dedicated-to-fat-girls-traveling-will-give-you-serious-wanderlust